On our second day in Avignon during our 2012 trip to France, we decided to take a driving day trip to Pont du Gard, Nimes, and Uzes. While it is entirely possible to reach each of these sites by bus, if you are comfortable with renting a car in France, you will spend MUCH less time in transit if you drive. Without a car, you probably would want to only do one or two of these sites as a day trip. This is a contrast to the Nice area, which is served much better by train.
Pont du Gard
Our morning started with a half hour drive to Pont du Gard, a famous aqueduct bridge built by the ancient Romans.
We were amazed by the beauty of the aqueduct bridge. I think we were expecting more ruins, and less of a complete bridge.
As we explained to the kids what an aqueduct is and why it would be particularly important in Roman times.
Before aqueducts, most people got their water from the local stream or river, a cistern, or a well. When you think of all the contamination that could occur in each of these sources, the ability to move clean water from one location to another without polluting it with animal, human, or other waste is a huge benefit.
Then when you think of accomplishing this feat without electricity, you will quickly see what an engineering accomplishment this was in Roman times. The aqueduct had to use gravity to move water for the entire length of the system. Today we can easily add a pump to get the water over a troublesome section, but the Romans did not have this luxury.
We spent a little bit of time hiking around the area. At one point, we saw a tombstone. One of John’s uncles had recently introduced him to the game “Planets vs. Zombies,” and he started acting really weird. Eventually, we figured out that he thought the zombies were going to come out of the tombstone and eat his brains. Sigh. But, when we explained that it wasn’t real, he managed to be able to pose for a picture.
Finishing at Pont du Gard, we hopped back in the car and drove another half hour, until we reached Nimes. The city of Nimes is famous for its Roman architecture, so one of our first stops was the amphitheater, Les Arénes.
Given that it is a smaller replica of the Colosseum, it really gave a feeling of what the Colosseum may have looked like before various earthquakes took their toll.
If you really want to see what it may have been like, time your visit to coincide with one of the bull fights or other performances that still happen today.
Another very impressive building is the Maison Carrée, a temple dedicated to the grandsons of Emperor Augustus.
The preservation on this building is simply amazing! We really enjoyed studying the architectural details.
After hitting the highlights, we wandered around the town a bit, enjoying the atmosphere.
After finishing in Nimes, we decided to drive another half hour to Uzes. It was a cute town, but we were tired so we didn’t stay as long as we planned. Apparently, we didn’t take any pictures either.
After returning to our home base in Avignon, we rested a bit, wandered more around town, got dinner, and made an early night of things.